In May 2022, Kraft Heinz did something perplexing: it launched Heinz Beanz Houmouz. It was a premium dip made from white beans (rather than chickpeas) and came in Original and Roasted Butternut Squash – both promising to be “creamy”. A Chipotle variant followed a few months later.

The unappetising trio was a rare foray into chilled for Heinz – part of the ambient food giant’s “Beanz liberation exercise”. Its stated, nay, shouted ambition? To entice younger shoppers and offer “new and exciting ways consumers can enjoy our beloved Heinz Beanz”.

Talk about trying too hard. If that Steve Buscemi meme (“How do you do, fellow kids?”) were a food product, it’d be Houmouz.

It flopped – lasting just nine months in Ocado, its only retailer. That outcome was far from perplexing.

Heinz’s team-up with Absolut vodka was a canny proposition

Fast-forward to this week and Heinz’s latest innovation; one that makes complete and utter sense. It’s an 11-strong range of ambient lines made from Italian tomatoes and targeting scratch cooking. It includes cooking sauces, pizza sauce and, most significantly, three varieties of tinned tomatoes.

The launch follows February 2022’s debut of seven Heinz pasta sauces to highlight the brand “as key player in the global tomato market”. Then, four months ago, came a team-up with Absolut for a limited-edition – and rather canny – sauce for tomato-vodka pasta (albeit two years after the viral vid of Gigi Hadid making such a dish).

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This all amounts to course-correction on an epic scale. Heinz clearly realised its core expertise is in haricot beans but also the tomato sauce they come in. And the £153m ketchup range they count as a stablemate. Let the tomato liberation exercise begin!

Brits will be willing to pay for this sort of affordable expense

It couldn’t have come at a more salient moment. After all, in times of austerity, consumers eat at home more and favour cheaper recipes that can be easily prepared in bulk – recipes in which British-Italian cuisine is rich.

A 500g pack of penne, for instance, is as little as 41p in Tesco. Why not zhuzh it up with a 500g jar of Frito Tomato Base or 400g tin of finely chopped tomatoes, seems to be Heinz’s message. They’ll cost between £1.25 and £1.75 – but that’s the sort of affordable expense shoppers fancy when feeling the squeeze. And they’ll end up with three or four meals for as little as 42p, with help from a well-known and trusted brand.

It’s that popularity and, indeed, power of Heinz – a £726.8m brand in 3.8% value growth – that will almost certainly translate to big sales and put the heebie-jeebies up smaller rivals in the Italian ingredients space, such as Napolina (down 8.6% to £103.1m) [Britain’s Biggest Brands 2023].

If Houmouz was Steve Buscemi, Heinz’s latest lineup is most likely Success Kid. But it’s not sand squeezed in his fist – it’s a big, juicy tomato.